Our journey towards having a baby was not easy. In fact it was almost as trying as when Jason was injured.
When we got to San Diego Jason's nurse practitioner (whom we adored; she was brutally honest and took no bull. I loved it.) suggested that among all the other services Jason needed, he should get a sperm count. She had seen in injured soldiers that sometimes blast injuries effect their count and so we made an appointment. We figured Jason was fine. He was young and healthy and only lost his legs.
We were really wrong.
In October 2012 we received the diagnosis of male factor infertility. Jason's count was so low that there was no possibility of conceiving a child naturally. In fact, we not only would need in vitro fertilization (IVF) but we would also need intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), and the doctor even said that we should have donor sperm as a back up. For those that don't know what IVF and ICSI are, IVF is when they remove eggs from the woman and mix them with sperm in a laboratory. They wait three to five days to see if they fertilize and then inject one to two eggs back into the woman. ICSI takes the process one step further. Instead of just mixing sperm with the egg, they take a single sperm and manually inject it into the egg for fertilization, then put the egg back into the woman.
Before we jumped into starting IVF, the doctor at the hospital wanted to do a few more sperm counts spaced two months apart to see if maybe Jason was still healing from his injuries. After all, this was only five months after his injury. But once this one year alive day rolled around, we found that his numbers did not improve at all and that IVF with ICSI was still our only option.
The doctors also could not figure out what was causing Jason's infertility. Jason had no trauma to his genitals and all the doctors could come up with was that when he was injured his body "rebooted" like a computer and that his body was sending an abundance of hormones to make sperm but the message was getting lost somehow. It wasn't until we got to Ohio that I think we may have found the real reason. While at Walter Reed Jason received many x-rays on his pelvis, none of which I remember them covering his genitals with a lead apron. At the time these x-rays were needed to diagnose and save his life, so I understand why they had to do them. But the exposure to the x-rays can cause infertility and I believe that's why it happened to Jason.
Right about that time we knew we were moving to Ohio so we decided to wait until we got there to start the IVF process. It took a little time but in October 2013 we finally saw the reproductive specialist at the Wright Patterson AFB hospital. At the hospital they don't do IVF so we had to go to a civilian clinic, which was a wonderful experience. They took amazing care of us. They decided to do another sperm count, and miraculously Jason's count had gone up to the minimum level that we could try an intrauterine insemination (IUI). An IUI is basically artificial insemination where they inject the sperm directly into the uterus. His numbers were still low but we were so hopeful and decided to try an IUI at the beginning of December.
Now, I have two fears: insects and needles. I hate, hate, hate shots. In order to do the IUI you have to be on a wonderful (insert sarcasm) pill called Clomid for five days which turns you into a crazy witch and then you have to do what's called a "trigger shot" which is an injection into your stomach. When the night came for my shot Jason and I sat on our bed for what seemed like forever. I was pinching my stomach fat and shakily holding the needle. I'd change my mind and hand it to Jason, only to tell him no and that I'll do it. I finally decided I needed to be alone and do it so I went into the bathroom and after a prayer I did it. And it wasn't bad at all. I felt so stupid for getting so worked up I cried, then I felt foolish for crying. Ah, the wonderfulness of hormones. Two days later I got the IUI and then started the two week wait. We would find out after Christmas if it worked.
Unfortunately on Christmas Eve I got my monthly visit. Our IUI did not work. Our option was to keep trying IUIs or go straight to IVF. The failed IUI devastated me. To say I was depressed was an understatement. We were told we would most likely have more success with IVF and to spare even more heartache, we opted to try IVF next.
At the end of January 2014 we started the process of IVF. And guess what? There's LOTS more injections! In February we hit a major roadblock. They discovered a cyst on one of my ovaries that most likely was caused by the Clomid I took for the IUI. They couldn't proceed with the rest of IVF until the cyst was gone, and it wasn't going away on its own. They decided to aspirate with a needle guided ultrasound, a procedure in which I would be awake for. I got to take a fentanyl lollipop, which was enjoyable (I had to take it in the waiting room where The Price Is Right was on. The medication made it fun to play along) and made me care less that a needle was about to pierce my vaginal walls. The procedure did not hurt and was over quickly although I clutched for the nurses hand because I was so terrified and made the doctor do a 1 2 3 before the jab. The next day I started the rest of my stimulation medicine to move on to the next step: egg harvesting.
Many ultrasounds later confirmed that I was eventually ready to have my egg harvested. Unlike the cyst procedure, I would actually be put under. I was excited and nervous.
You don't really know how many eggs they'll get and even so, the number of eggs don't really matter. Yet you still want some. After it was done and Jason came back to see me, I jittered from the anesthesia and kept asking "How many? How many?" The answer was 17!
They do the ICSI part next and we wait five days to see how many of the eggs divide into cells. Every day we would get a report, anxious to hear if they were dividing. By day five, it went from 17 eggs to five. Not all eggs divide enough times or are viable enough to be considered for in vitro. It was a little sad I admit but oh we were so grateful for those five!
Because of my age and health, they thought implanting one embryo would be good. Of course the more you put in the greater chance of multiple babies which is not the goal of IVF. Jason was in Texas hand cycling the Army marathon while I had the embryo implanted. It was so odd to walk out thinking "there could possibly be a baby in there!"
Next came the dreaded Two Week Wait. You have to wait two whole weeks to take the blood test to see if the IVF worked. All the while you are injected progesterone into your hip with an inch and a half long needle every. single. day. My whole midsection was sore and bruised from stomach and hip injections. But I kept praying and played worship music while I did my injections to try and keep my mind off of what I was doing. I didn't like to talk about IVF. The few people who knew would sometimes say "Oh you know it'll work!" To which I always thought "Well people always said nothing would ever happen to Jason so...." I couldn't let myself think that far ahead. I wanted so badly for this to work but I knew there was a very decent possibility it wouldn't.
And on November 21, 2014 Quinn Leona Gibson made her appearance. 7 lbs 11 oz, 19 inches long. She was tiny, adorable, and perfect.
Later on this month our little miracle will be six months old. Time has flown by!
And every shot, every pain, every colicky moment, every spit up and poop and pee, has been absolutely completely worth it.
This Mother's Day I am thankful to Quinn for changing me in a way that has made me better and stronger and more sure in my self. I am thankful to Jason for sticking by my crazy hormonal side and for trying his best to be a great father even with his disability. I am thankful for my family and friends, for their never ending prayer and love that I felt always surrounding me. And I am so thankful to God, for blessing me with this girl. He has been there for me in good and bad times and He has been the one constant when everything felt like chaos. Thank you Heavenly Father for making me a mother.